Determining what you need for after SHTF can be a real challenge. There are so many needs to think about from growing food to first aid. That’s exactly why diatomaceous earth is perfect for preppers. It’s a natural product that can help keep people and animals healthy, protect food storage and gardens, and help filter water.
What is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth or DE is essentially silica powder. It’s made from the fossilized remains of tiny ancient organisms, called diatoms, that lived in lakes, rivers, and the ocean. These remains are now mined and ground up for use in various applications.
There are food grade and non-food grade diatomaceous earthproducts available. For the most part these products are the same however the food grade is strictly regulated by the USDA ensuring that there’s been no contamination and it’s a clean and safe product for you to consume.
Non-food grade DE is typically used as an agricultural and household insecticide and is not strictly regulated. For prepping purposes you’ll want to purchase the food grade kind. Don’t worry it’s still very affordable.
A key element in most prepper’s survival plan is food storage. Unfortunately there are many things that can compromise food. Two of those are moisture and insects. Thankfully both can be taken care of with a simple DE application.
First of all, silica readily absorbs moisture. You’ve seen those little silica gel packets in dry goods right? Well since DE is silica it can be used to the same effect accept that since it’s food grade, unlike those little packets, it can just go right in with your food. When you’re filling a container of something dry like wheat or oats just sprinkle in a thin layer of DE every few inches starting with the bottom layer. This tiny application will keep your food dry and potentially save your life in a SHTF scenario.
Doing this protects your food storage from insects live grain weevils too! Even though to humans DE feels like a soft powder it actually has little razor sharp edges.
Don’t worry they won’t hurt you or your stomach, but they do hurt insects. Those little edges slice right through insect exoskeletons causing them to dehydrate and die.
To Filter Water
Diatomaceous earth is an excellent medium as a layer in survival water filtration systems. There’s some evidence that, just like cilantro, when used in filters it absorbs heavy metals just as it does in the human body.
Some even believe that it kills certain viruses, bacteria, and algae. Even if this is not the case, it is effective in filtering them out of water has been used in both survival and residential uses since World War II.
There are some DE filters available for purchase. In these the DE layer is located in the filter element. If you’re looking for a pre-made DE filter make sure you look for one that is specifically for drinking water. They are often used for pools and these are not safe for drinking water.
To Take Care of Garden Pests
While food storage is still very important obviously stores will need to be replenished after a long-term crisis, and one of the easiest ways to do that is growing a garden.
Unfortunately, even through the use of permaculture techniques like companion planting and crop rotation, there is no guarantee that your garden will be problem free.
That’s where DE comes in. It’s ability to knock down pests is indispensable and doesn’t cover your plants with toxic chemicals.
Simply dust your afflicted plants, or even the ground around them for non-flying insects, with a fine layer of DE. Note that it will need to be re-applied after rains if you’re still experiencing pests.
When your plants reach harvest time all you have to do is rinse them off and because it’s completely safe to consume you don’t have to worry about missing any.
Claimed Health Benefits
While diatomaceous earth has not been heavily studied and is not FDA approved as a treatment for any conditions there are many testimonials about its health benefits.
First off, as previously mentioned DE is almost entirely made of silica and silica is an important mineral to the human body. Silica is used by almost every vital organ and scientists believe it plays a role in bone, tendon, joint, and muscle health.
Consuming it can ensure you’re getting this essential mineral especially in a survival scenario. Many believe ingesting DE can also help absorb toxins and heavy metals in the body helping them to pass through without causing damage.
Lastly it will kill most intestinal parasites. This is extremely important in a survival situation. Internal parasites are more prevalent than people realize, and can enter your body from untreated water, constant contact with livestock, or even the dirt on your hands from gardening. Parasites can steal valuable nutrients from the body and leave you feeling fatigued and ill.
To consume DE, simply stir a teaspoon in with a glass of water and drink it. The DE is not water soluble and won’t dissolve but it’s easy enough to drink it this way.
As with any natural remedy you should start slowly (try this method once a day) but you can increase up to 3 TBS throughout the day depending on your body’s needs. Just remember to take it slow!
Just like with people DE can be used to help livestock and pets stay healthy and happy both in everyday life or a survival scenario.
DE can be used internally by adding it to animals feed or water (as with people start slowly) to treat intestinal parasites.
It can also be used externally by thoroughly rubbing it into the animals fur or feathers to kill lice, mites, and fleas. When treating animals their spaces should also be treated.
Dust things like pet beds, nest boxes, and stall floors with diatomaceous earth to keep pests from spreading.
Please note whenever you’re using it directly on animals you should do so in a well ventilated area. Many animals have sensitive respiratory systems and fine dusts like DE can have harmful effects when breathed in in large amounts.
Also when using on surfaces allow it to settle before allowing the animal back into that area.
Diatomaceous earth has three key features that make it an excellent choice for homemade hygiene products, it absorbs moisture and odors and is mildly abrasive.
You can use DE as a deodorant and body powder. Its ability to absorb moisture can help cure athletes foot and other funguses plus keeps odor down.
Again, being a little smelly may not seem like a threat to your survival but getting a bit cleaner will keep your morale higher when hopping in a hot shower just isn’t an option.
Diatomaceous earth’s abrasive quality also makes it a perfect candidate for homemade toothpaste, body scrub, or shampoo. It can be combined with existing recipes or used all on its own.
As a toothpaste it can help to scrub away plaque and tartar build up and whiten teeth. It’s really great at getting rid of all those tea and coffee stains. While it’s not abrasive enough to irritate skin some people recommend that you only use in on your teeth about once per week.
As a body scrub it’s an excellent exfoliant and can help clean out pores. It’s also awesome for scrubbing off caked on dirt after a long day in the garden.
DE’s use as a shampoo helps to remove dry skin, grease, and dirt from your scalp. Plus it can even kill hair lice or mites the same way it kills garden pests.
The qualities that make diatomaceous earth an excellent hygiene product also make it good for home care. It can be used to scrub a variety of surfaces or to trap odor or moisture.
It’s also good to occasionally dust mattresses and sleeping areas with DE to prevent bed bugs. They’re the last thing you’ll think about in a survival scenario but if conditions deteriorate they can spread rapidly and harbor deadly diseases.
If you want a natural, affordable, easy to store, multi-purpose product in your storage diatomaceous earth is definitely the way to go. It can help preppers solve so many problems from dirty dishes, to garden pests, to athlete’s foot, and even food spoilage!
Food grade diatomaceous earth has become very popular and can be purchased at a variety of retailers and online sites including common big box stores and Amazon.
Have you ever used diatomaceous earth?
Jordan Charbonneau is an organic vegetable farmer and off grid homesteader from West Virginia. She graduated from Sterling College with bachelors degrees in ecology and environmental humanities in 2015. She also completed an Appalachian Trail thru-hike and enjoys learning about permaculture, herbalism, and wild edibles in her free time. She loves to share it all and has been a writer and blogger since 2013.